Smith admits current Panthers roster lacking in 'a lot of areas'

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has seen many longtime teammates cut this offseason, and he acknowledges the team has some holes on its roster.

"As of today, if the season started, I think we would be down," Smith said Tuesday. "We don't have a bona fide backup quarterback. We don't have a guy that we consider to step in for Muhsin (Muhammad)'s spot. There are a lot of areas, as of today, that we're missing.

"As of right now, I know it's an unfinished product. So I really can't right now say, 'All aboard, let's move out' or 'Hey, let's get nervous.'"

Smith will be part of a new-look Panthers team next season. Matt Moore, who went 4-1 as an injury replacement to close 2009, will enter training camp in 2010 as the starting quarterback after Jake Delhomme was released.

"I think he deserves all the accolades and all the things he's going to experience," Smith said of Moore. "Is he a young guy? Yes, he is, but everybody at some point was exactly where Matt Moore is. If he puts in the work, I think he's going to be as good as he wants to be."

Also gone are fullback Brad Hoover, linebacker Na'il Diggs and defensive tackles Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu. The Panthers let defensive end Julius Peppers leave in free agency and aren't expected to re-sign wide receiver Muhammad, leaving Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, as one of only four players 30 or over still on Carolina's roster.


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Smith, the Panthers' new union representative, doesn't think, however, that team owner Jerry Richardson slashed the payroll because of a potential work stoppage in 2011. Smith is optimistic that Richardson, who's playing a key role in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, will help avoid a costly lockout.

Richardson, who recovered from last year's heart transplant, is co-chairman of the NFL's management council executive committee and addressed the owners at the league meetings this week in Orlando, Fla.

"A lot of the stuff I've read they're united. That's great. The players association and 1,900 players, we're unified as well," Smith said. "But I personally think with Mr. Richardson at the helm, I think he's a man of integrity. He's obviously one of the very few owners that played this game. He knows what this game is about.

"With him there, I think there's going to be more of a push to get things together and allow football to go on and not deal with the lockout issues."

Richardson has declined comment for months, but it has been suggested that his role in the CBA talks has fueled the decision to slash more than $30 million from last year's payroll in anticipation of a work stoppage.

"I'm not really sure if that is the case," Smith said. "As a player rep and being in Maui (for a union meeting), will it surprise me league-wide? No, it doesn't surprise me because it is a business. I hope that's not the case."

Smith said he initially declined the offer to be a union rep, but he quickly changed his mind and is now doing all he can to stay informed on the issues and communicating with his teammates. And with nearly all of them younger than the 30-year-old Smith, it's just another example of how short an NFL career is.

"It's sad news," Smith said. "I lost some friends. My wife lost some friends that are moving away that were unexpected. But one day, I'm being released as well."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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